Some Essential Differences between Consciousness and Attention, Perception, and Working Memory

Document Type: 
Article
Article Type: 
Theoretical
Disciplines: 
Neuroscience
Topics: 
Theory of Consciousness
Date of Issue: 
1997
Authors: 
Bernard J. Baars
Journal/Publication Title: 
Consciousness and Cognition
Volume: 
6
Page Range: 
363-371
Number of Pages: 
9
Official URL: 
http://ccrg.cs.memphis.edu/assets/papers/2006/Baars%20-%20Essential%20differences-2006.pdf
Publish status: 
Published
Abstract: 
When ‘‘divided attention’’ methods were discovered in the 1950s their implications for conscious experience were not widely appreciated. Yet when people process competing streams of sensory input they show both selective processes and clear contrasts between conscious and unconscious events. This paper suggests that the term ‘‘attention’’ may be best applied to the selection and maintenance of conscious contents and distinguished from consciousness itself. This is consistent with common usage. The operational criteria for selective attention, defined in this way, are entirely different from those used to assess consciousness. To illustrate the scientific usefulness of the distinction it is applied to Posner’s (1994) brain model of visual attention. It seems that features that are often attributed to attention—like limited capacity—may more accurately be viewed as properties of consciousness.
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